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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

How to Become an Entrepreneur (A Serial Entrepreneur’s Advice)

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How to Become an Entrepreneur (A Serial Entrepreneur’s Advice)

The dream of entrepreneurship is one many share. It’s all about being your own boss, having financial security, and creating something from nothing through hard work, dedication, and skill. It’s the rare person who hasn’t pondered how to become an entrepreneur.

I certainly did, and from a young age. I come from a long line of entrepreneurial people: my great grandfather was a cattle trader and wildcatter. My grandfather and father were in the oil and gas industry, and I have been involved in everything from oil and gas to manufacturing, real estate, and skin care. In short, I have been a serial entrepreneur for the past 35 years.

On the path to learning how to become an entrepreneur, I have both made and lost millions of dollars, managed hundreds of employees, and suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and other health issues.

I have learned lessons from some of the greatest minds in the business world, as well as from my own spectacular failures. But one thing I have never done is quit, and that is lesson one on how to become an entrepreneur and be successful while doing it.

What People Get Wrong About Entrepreneurship

When I talk to people about entrepreneurship and how to become an entrepreneur, there are some common misconceptions that always arise.

They are almost always based on stereotypes that have seeped into the culture over time. We see them in movies, television, and even from entrepreneurs themselves. But like all stereotypes, they are overgeneralizations that don’t allow us to see the true, in-depth picture of the entrepreneur. So, here are the most common myths I hear about entrepreneurs.

There Are “Born” Entrepreneurs

It’s true that if you come from a long line of entrepreneurs (as I did), you are more likely to become one, but it’s not genetically inherited. It’s much more a function of having entrepreneurs as role models in your life. After all, colleges and universities have been teaching all kinds of people business skills and entrepreneurship for decades.

Now, that’s not to say that there are no “born into” advantages that can help with entrepreneurship. Money is a great example of this. If you were lucky enough to be born into a family with money, it will make entrepreneurship a much easier proposition. After all, funding is a major part of any start-up.

That being said, most entrepreneurs were not born into money and still became successful. More on how to do that later.

Entrepreneurs Don’t Have a Social Life

This one is pretty common and sometimes perpetuated by the entrepreneurs themselves. There can be a kind of a machismo attached to the image of a workaholic: someone who is single-minded and entirely focused to the exclusion of other things.

While entrepreneurship does take a lot of time, effort, and dedication, entrepreneurs, by necessity, need to be social creatures. No one rises to the top without a wide network of friends and acquaintances.

They Are Extreme Risk-Takers

There’s no getting around taking risks as an entrepreneur. However, successful entrepreneurs are experts at taking calculated risks — carefully exploring all the options as well as the potential ups and downs before making a decision.

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The person who is willing to risk it all on a roll of the dice isn’t going to be in business very long.

They Are Super Smart

In fact, only about 26% of entrepreneurs have a college degree[1]. While getting or having an education can’t (or shouldn’t) hurt, it is by no means a prerequisite for becoming a successful entrepreneur.

They Raise Money Through Bank Loans and Venture Capital Firms

My hat’s off to you if you can pull that one off, especially a bank loan. You’ll find that banks are more than willing to lend you money once you’ve become successful, but before then, you’re lucky to get a cup of coffee out of them[2].

No, most new entrepreneurs are raising funds either personally or through friends and family[3].

How to Fund Your Startup as an Entrepreneur

    Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur

    All you need is a great idea and some hard work. After all, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

    Sorry, but that’s just not true.

    There is a lot involved in launching a successful startup. Not everyone has the time, ability, or inclination to do it. The truth is, successful entrepreneurs do share some similar traits and habits. We’ll go over those next.

    6 Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur

    How much is a great new idea worth? Well, that depends. If you’re Steve Jobs, it’s worth billions of dollars. If you’re Steve Jones, whose content working a nine to five day job for 30 years, then it’s worth nothing.

    The truth is that there are great ideas all around us all the time, but it’s the entrepreneur that gives the idea value.

    So how do you know if you have what it takes to learn how to become an entrepreneur? Here is a list of some common traits of successful entrepreneurs.

    1. Passion

    We hear this one a lot, but what does it really mean?

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    For the entrepreneurs, passion is an overabundance of enthusiasm for their work. We’re not talking about a passion for making money or getting rich. That should be a byproduct of passion.

    The kind of passion we’re talking about is a complete belief in how the business, product, or service adds value to the consumer. People with this kind of passion are willing to do whatever it takes to see that vision through.

    2. Tenacity

    Rarely do human endeavors go exactly as planned. This is especially true in a start-up situation. No matter how good you are or how many times you’ve done it, things are going to come out of left field and smack you upside the head.

    Now, I’m not going to tell you that it’s fun when something unexpected comes out of nowhere and turns your world upside down, but I will say that if you have the tenacity to work through the problem, it will serve as a lesson in resourcefulness for both you and your team.

    3. Flexibility

    I’m putting this one right after tenacity because sometimes solutions aren’t a matter of pushing through a problem but going around it.

    Back in the 1930s, having wallpaper was the “in” thing. The problem was that it literally was paper. When it got dirty, cleaning it with water and other household products quickly soaked and degraded the paper. The solution was to use a clay like substance to clean the wallpaper without getting it wet.

    Then, in the 1950s, preschool children in Cincinnati started using this same clay to make Christmas decorations. Pretty soon, it was repackaged into Play-Doh[4].

    The most successful entrepreneurs are flexible enough to change direction when they need to.

    4. Confidence

    As a startup entrepreneur, it’s extremely important that you exude confidence in your business, product/service, and especially in your own abilities. After all, you need to be inspiring to investors, employees, and customers if you’re going to learn how to become an entrepreneur.

    Arrogance, on the other hand, can be just as detrimental to your business as a lack of confidence. For investors, arrogance is a warning sign that you won’t listen to their input or advice. For employees, it can set up a rigid, autocratic management style that stifles creativity. And for customers, it can signal a lack of appreciation for their business.

    In short, confidence is a must, and arrogance is a no-no.

    5. Being a Motivated Self-Starter

    I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who wasn’t a highly motivated self-starter. Part of that comes from the passion they have for their business. They really enjoy what they do and can’t wait for Monday to roll around so that they can start again.

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    Another part of that is discipline. They tend to approach everything in life with discipline. Work is the obvious example, but even leisure activities are an exercise in discipline.

    For example, they promised their spouse that they would get some yard work done, but their kid has a game. Their answer is not to skip either one; it’s to schedule both activities into the day.

    6. Being a Calculated Risk Taker

    We talked a little bit about this earlier, and the word “calculated” is very important here. We’ve all heard the saying that “With great risk comes great reward.” But too many people confuse “great risk” with “foolish risk.”

    A straightforward way to think about this is buying 100,000 lottery tickets. It certainly fits the criteria of a great reward coming from a great risk. But is it a smart (calculated) risk? If you’re intelligent enough to be reading this article, you know the answer.

    So, here’s how an entrepreneur thinks about this situation. Instead of spending money on 100,000 lottery tickets, how about taking that money, use 50% as a down payment on a property that needs a little fix-up; and use the other half to fix it up and then sell it for a $50,000 profit? Now that is a calculated risk.

    8 Practical Steps on How to Become an Entrepreneur

    When counseling people on how to become an entrepreneur, I encourage them to take an honest assessment of themselves. This is always much harder than people think.

    As humans, we are notoriously bad at self-assessment. We tend to overestimate our skills and abilities. That’s why almost everyone thinks that they are an above average driver[5].

    Even so, if you are considering life as an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s important to be as honest as possible when doing these self-assessments. Once you have a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses, you can use these tips to build your business.

    1. Develop Your Idea

    It doesn’t have to be a totally unique or groundbreaking business idea in order to be a successful one. The popular rideshare company Lyft was started three years after the introduction of Uber. They took on the business model of Uber and just tweaked it a little.

    Just because there is competition in a field doesn’t mean that you can’t be very successful when you start a business, too.

    Go ahead and use the business model of the most successful competitor, but make it your own by identifying shortcomings and weaknesses that you can exploit for your own success.

    2. Research, Research, Research

    Research the industry and get to know the players, trade associations, and conventions. Research the products and services involved. It’s not uncommon that the most profitable part of a business isn’t the “main” product, but an ancillary add-on product.

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    For example, it’s not uncommon for a restaurant to break even on the food and only make money on the drinks. The reason they can offer a plate full of food for $5.00 is really the $2.00 Coke or $5.00 glass of wine you order with it.

    Finally, research the customer. Things like average age, sex, buying habits, interests, attitudes about health, wealth, social media, and status are all helpful in your targeting and marketing efforts.

    3. Create a Formal Business Plan

    This step is often overlooked and shouldn’t be. As a one or two-person show, you can probably get along fine without one, but once you start hiring employees, having a formal business plan is essential[6].

    Elements of a Business Plan

      Unfortunately, if you don’t put it in place right away, by the time you need it, you’ll be too busy to create one. It’s always smart to do it up front.

      4. Build Your Network

      No one can build a successful business on their own. You’ll need investors, attorneys, accountants, bankers, as well as vendors, industry contacts, employees, and a whole host of others.

      Start attending trade shows and conventions, as well as joining trade association and online groups. These are all great networking resources for you.

      5. Test Your Ideas

      Start small, as there’s no way you can predict every possible problem or issue that will arise. You’ll find it’s much easier to address these issues if they’re limited to a few test markets as opposed to a global rollout.

      6. Turn Early Customers Into Fans

      Another advantage of starting out on a small scale while learning how to become an entrepreneur is that you can develop more personal relationships with customers. Make sure to provide a great experience for these first customers to build up the most effective advertising there is — word of mouth.

      7. Raise Capital

      At this point, you should have a proven business model with customers, cash flow, and a plan for expansion. You can now start to raise money through investors, venture capitalists, and banks.

      8. Scale Your Business

      Take the money raised and use it to scale the business for maximum returns for you, your employees, investors, and early backers.

      Final Thoughts

      In my opinion, there has never been a better time in our history to learn how to become an entrepreneur. The old barriers to entry — access to large amounts of capital, expensive professional services like legal and accounting, and staffing issues — can all be overcome thanks to the internet. There are people all over offering these services as freelancers and at discounted rates, making it the perfect time to start to grow your business.If you truly have a good idea that you are committed to, then really the only thing stopping you from joining the ranks of entrepreneurs is you.

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      More on How to Become an Entrepreneur

      Featured photo credit: Humphrey Muleba via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      David Carpenter

      Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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      Last Updated on August 25, 2021

      Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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      Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

      As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

      Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

      According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

      “Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

      A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

      What Is Your Personal Brand?

      “Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

      Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

      Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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      I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

      A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

      Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

      Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

      Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

      In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

      According to Castrillon,[2]

      “One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

      The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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      As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

      In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

      “if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

      When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

      The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

      Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

      The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

      5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

      These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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      1. Set Your Personal Goals

      What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

      2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

      Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

      1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
      2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
      3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
      4. What makes you different from others like you?

      The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

      3. Write Your Professional Story

      Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

      4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

      Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

      5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

      A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

      The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

      Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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      As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

      Other People’s Stories

      Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

      Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

      Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

      “your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

      So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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